I was intrigued by PBS6 as soon as I heard about them. A folk hip-hop collaboration is not unheard of, just think of Jim Moray’s ’Lucy Wan’, but a group formed with this concept at their core is something I’ve not come across. Add to that their desire to push geographical boundaries by investigating histories, identities and cultures of both the UK and Australia, and you have a group with a wide scope and very big ambitions.
’Pilot: Going Down’ is a four track EP, released in advance of a full length album. I was amazed that, being so short, I could listen to it over and over without becoming bored and needing to switch to something else. I can’t quite put my finger on why but the pure diversity and richness of sounds might be what keeps me attentive. Every time you listen you find something new, some hidden treasure revealed. Whether it’s the spoken words of Reggie or Auntie Pat, or Shona Kipling’s sublime accordion, it certainly keeps your interest and excitement.
Park Bench Social Club’s Will Lang has brought together a truly eclectic mix of musicians to create this project. Katie Wighton provides beautiful, fragile lyrics, and MC Crystalize and Relm both produce intelligent and compelling rap vocals. The production is gorgeous, blending all the disparate elements into a very pleasing whole.
Of the four tracks, two have stood out a little more to me, and I’ve been singing one or other fairly constantly in my head all week. ’Our Story’ explores ancestry with an incredibly catchy tune and thought-proving lyrics and spoken words. My favourite though, is ’Byker Hill’, a trad song given a modern flavour. Elements of the accordion accompaniment remind me of metal-folkers The Glorystrokes, but there are so many echoes of styles and bands evident here, which is what I enjoy about it.
I could spend all day tagging ’Pilot: Going Down’ with the names of bands, tunes and songs I am reminded of but that’s the point. PBS6 are a fusion of influences and backgrounds, and that comes through loud and clear into one of the most eclectic sounds I have heard all year. Their sound may not be to everyone’s taste, as modern and hip-hop as is it, but for me this is another exciting path for British folk music to be exploring, and I look forward to hearing more.